First, the disaster...I thought it would be neat to make my own "onion
skin" typing paper to use for my final written assignment on papermaking.
So, I went to the grocery store and asked the produce manager if I could
clean out the onion bin of all the excess "skins." He thought I was nuts,
but obliged. I took the bag full of onion skins home, and put it in the
blender with lots of water and promptly blew the motor out on the blender!
It also smelled terrible! I found out later typing paper doesn't really
have onion skin in it at all.
One of my nicest pieces of handmade paper was one I made from kudzu fibers.
(I live in NC, where kudzu is plentiful!) I did not use the traditional
Japanese method of making the pulp, but came up with my own. I boiled the
kudzu tubers for a day or so, in a big stockpot with lots of water. Then I
added just a little bit of cotton fiber to it. The kudzu fibers were very
long, thick and course-textured. The color was pleasing too, kind of a
light deerskin tone. It is gorgeous, and I admit, I was precious with that
one! The whole pot of tubers cooked down to one little 5 x 7 inch sheet of
When I did paper-making workshops for kids, I made some work-stations out
of sets of three stacking Rubbermaid dishwashing tubs. The first tub I
used, as is, to hold the slurry. I cut the bottoms out of the second pair
of tubs, and framed the openings with little strips of wood and tiny brass
brads (one had the frame on the inside of the tub and the other had it on
the outside). Then I made lots of little screens (I used window screening
with the edges taped). The bottom tub holds the slurry, then you put the
next tub in and the frame part should be covered by pulp. Then you put the
screen in, using a scooping motion, followed by the top tub. Then you lift
the two top tubs out together and the water drains out. You take the top
tub off, remove the screen, then "kiss the pulp off" onto a felt (I used an
old army blanket cut into small squares). Different workstations had
different types of pulp. I also put different colored pulps into plastic
squeeze bottles with fairly large tips. Kids could add to their paper while
it was still on the screen.
I didn't do much casting, but I tried waxing a large (22 x 30") plaster
mold and the sheet popped off when it was dry, without any problem. I tried
using my woodblocks from printmaking as molds too, but it was hard to get
wax down into the finer lines and the paper would stick sometimes. But I
liked the effect nonethe less.
Dard Hunter's book "Papermaking" was very helpful to me. Thanks to two of
my high school art teachers, Curt & Sue Benzle, for teaching me the basics
of papermaking, and getting my imagination sparked! If you're out there
reading this list, you made a tremendous impact on my life! Thanks!
Director & Curator
Guilford College Art Gallery
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